Chapter Two – 83 days Earlier
I broke my leg on August 24, 1972. It was a little after 4:00 PM. My tibia broke first. An impressive spiral break that ran from mid shaft to an inch above my ankle. The jagged bone end separated from the lower part of my tibia and dug angrily into the soft muscle in my lower leg. The fibula broke no more than a second after the tibia. This break was occurred just below my knee and was little cause for concern. It actually made the setting of my leg easier later that night in the emergency room at Mercy Hospital on Vail Avenue in Charlotte, NC.
When you manage to break your leg in front of 1,500 people, the collective memory of the event lives for a long time. In 1997, I attended the 25th anniversary of our graduation from Myers Park High School. The event was well attended. Over 250 alumni dined and danced at the Marriott Hotel South Park. By this time, most of the graduates were married with kids. The walls of the ballroom were adorned with pictures taken during our senior year. Sure enough, out of 50 pictures, there were three pictures commemorating my broken leg.
The first was a black and white image of me being wheeled from the soccer field on a gurney by a team of EMT’s. I was in obvious agony but was waving bravely to the crowd which was giving the fallen captain of the Myers Park Girls’ soccer team a standing ovation.
The second picture, located near the desert table, was also a black and white shot. I was seated with my casted leg propped on a table. The cast ran from my upper thigh to the base of my toes. While the cast was covered with drawings and signatures, I knew the photo had been taken only a few weeks after the accident. The cast was made of pearly white plaster of Paris. The sole of the cast was slightly rounded. I have not yet had the rubber walking heel placed on the bottom of the cast. That would come some weeks later.
In the photo, Mary Betterment was signing my cast with a felt tip marker. Next to Mary were Sue Engle and Donna DeYoung. All the girls were seniors like me. And we were Myers Park school district ‘Lifers’. We met each other in kindergarten at Selwyn Elementary School and progressed through Alexander Graham Middle School arriving at Myers Park together as freshmen in 1968.
A rather unimaginative caption under the photo read “Lynne Baucom gets all the breaks.”
The third photo had been enlarged and was in color. It was displayed prominently at the entrance to the ballroom. I was standing on crutches on the 50 yard line of the football field wearing a blue gown and the 1972 Myers Park homecoming crown. My leg was still encased in the cast but I now had the rubber walking heel on the bottom of the cast. I was balanced easily on the crutches since I was now able to bear weight on the leg.
Standing next to me was my boyfriend at the time, Chippy Baucom. Chippy was and is a handsome guy. We met in 8th grade while attending Alexander Graham Middle School. We played spin the bottle in 9th grade. Began making out in 10th grade. And by 11th grade, we were having sex at least once a week.
Chippy’s family owned a successful chain of nurseries in the Charlotte area. Chippy was an earthy guy. What you saw with Chippy was what you got. No pretense. No bullshit. Like all 17 year olds in 1972, Chippy was worried about the Vietnam War draft. As a matter of fact, that was the only reason Chippy enrolled with me at Wingate College in 1973 instead of joining the family business right out of high school.
So, while my broken leg occurred almost 40 years ago, there are constant reminders of it in my life.
The photos at class reunions are one such reminder.
But there are others. Like the round shaped scar on my shin caused by my shattered tibia pressing against my skin following my accident. Or the achy sensation I get in my leg when the weather changes. Or the feeling of sympathy and sorry I feel whenever I see someone wearing a leg cast on crutches.
Something as shocking and painful and difficult to recover from as a broken leg cannot be forgotten. 45 years after breaking my leg, I think of the injury at least once a day.
Chapter Three – The Break
The South Mecklenburg soccer goalie was named Hannah Scott. She was a drop dead gorgeous red head. We played South Mecklenburg twice a year since I was a freshman. So, I had seen Hannah before although I never talked to her.
Hannah and I were charging towards each other chasing a loose ball. I beat her by a second which in hindsight may not have been a good thing. As I prepared to kick the ball, I planted my left foot firmly in the ground. Simultaneously I twisted my body to kick with my right foot. It was at that instant that Hannah’s foot hit my leg.
I felt a series of snaps in my leg as I twisted to the ground; cleats still planted in the soft field. This was followed by a loud sound reminiscent of a gunshot. My teammates who observed the accident say my leg bowed at a severe angle before it snapped. I landed hard on my back and the breath was knocked out of me. I may have lost consciousness for a moment or two since my head landed hard on the ground.
If any of you reading this has ever broken a bone, you will probably agree that shock, rather than pain, is the first of the libido emotions to take over after a break. I knew instantly that my leg was broken. The leg that I had played hop scotch on as a young girl. The leg that had propelled me to first place in the potato sack races in 4th grade. The leg that earlier that morning had played footsie with my boyfriend Chippy while he ate his frosted flakes in his parents’ breakfast room.
That leg was no longer whole. It was shattered and useless. My skeleton had been violated. The structure of my body had been altered.
But there was no pain. Nada. As I lay on the ground, I tried to move my leg. I felt a strange grating sensation in the middle of my shin. And my knee was starting to hurt. My leg moved but in an odd, awkward way. I sensed my cleats were still firmly planted in the ground.
In the distance, I saw a group of South Mecklenburg players pointing at me and shaking their heads. One girl was throwing up. Another was covering her eyes. Hannah Scott was crying.
Somehow, I mustered the strength to sit up. It took me several seconds to understand what I was looking at. My soccer cleats were indeed still planted in the ground. My foot was turned at almost a 180-degree angle to my body. If my body was facing north, the foot was pointing due south. Even through my knee sock and shin guard, I could tell my leg was bowed and misshapen.
I felt the blood rush from my head. I was dizzy and looked to the sideline for help. I saw several shapes running toward me. I laid back down and closed my eyes.
Mary Betterment was the first to reach me. “Lynne stay still.” I heard her soft voice say. “Your leg may be broken.” It was Mary Betterment who had broken her own leg in 3rd grade. Mary was the team trainer. She had taken several first aid courses. She had already been accepted pre-med at the University of North Carolina and, in six years, would be an orthopedic surgeon.
I mentally tried to marry what I had seen of my leg and the concept of a ‘broken leg.” My leg was not broken; it was mutilated. Shit. Shit. Shit. Can they even save a leg when the foot is turned around backwards?
Mary was now taking charge. She motioned to some of my teammates and I was soon surrounded by a support crew.
“Lynne. Coach Mars has called for an ambulance. I’m going to have to get your cleats out of the ground and make sure you have blood flow to your foot.”
Mary had a sad look on her face. I was still more or less pain free except for my knee.
The Coleman sisters, Abby and Lizzy, knelt on either side of me. Abby was a senior like me. Lizzy was a sophomore. The Coleman’s, under Mary’s direction, placed their hands on my hips and shoulders; essentially preventing me from moving. I suspected this meant the straightening of my leg would be painful. I was too shocked to care.
Agnes Bishop joined the comfort squad. Agnes placed my head in her lap. She held my hands and for some reason I found this extremely comforting. I wished my mother was there. But mom was at work. She was nurse at Memorial Hospital; one of the two major hospitals in Charlotte. She was a cardiac ICU nurse. Dad, a salesman for a office supply company, was out of town.
“This will probably hurt a bit, Lynne.” Mary said. I noticed that none of my ‘comfort squad’ teammates except Mary could bring themselves to look at my leg. Mary placed her hands on my ankle, just below what I suspected was the area of the break.
“Deep breaths, Lynne.” Mary said.